Mark Waid/Ron Garney/Pino Rinaldi/Scott Koblish
beware the ides of March ... this is my send-off to Steve Rogers, affectionately known around these parts as the one, the only* Captain America.
* well, who knows what the devious minds at Marvel will think of next?
despite being an Iron Man guy, i still read some memorable issues of Captain America from my childhood years - the Madbomb (Jack Kirby rocks!), the Bernie Rosenthal years, Scourge, Flag Smasher and U.L.T.I.M.A.T.U.M., and of course whenever Tony and him appear in the Avengers. as it is difficult enough to procure comics back home, i've only heard of but never read one of most-raved about Cap storylines ever, "Man Without A Country", until today.
the story picks up from where we find Sharon Carter/Agent 13, the once and future lover (and killer?) of Steve Rogers, renewing ties (if in a little tense kind of way) with him ... this after Steve discovers her working underground after thinking she's been dead for years. just to note, Sharon's older sister Peggy used to knock boots with Steve back in WWII. getting frozen for decades allowed him to do the same to Peggy's younger sister. maybe this "death" of Cap is just a ploy to "put him in suspended animation" again, because he "learns" that Sharon has a much younger sister (eeeeewwww!).
treason ... the treason that we fear ... our feelings won't disappear
events of the past few issues - Cap slipping into a coma due to loss of the Super-Soldier Serum, Sharon's resurrection, who's currently labeled an outlaw by S.H.I.E.L.D., and Cap's own 'resurrection' at the hands of his most hated enemy, the Red Skull, and his forced alliance with him - attract the attention of the powers-that-be in the U.S. government, forcing them to arrest their country's most valiant and enduring symbol (at least in comic book world).
he actually gets an audience with Willy himself (that's Prez Bill Clinton to you, Republicans).
a sometime-frenemy, General Chapman, presents the video evidence of Cap working side-by-side with the Red Skull, and Cap tries to explain his side. however, Bill argues that a supersecret weapon - the Argus Cannon - has fallen into the hands of Moldavia (that's a semi-fictional Euro country ... well, technically, because it used to be a Soviet republic and is now a fully-independent country called Moldova. whatever.). how it got there is the mystery, because only two men know the specs of the Cannon - Bill and Cap. Bill thinks that Cap may have given up the secrets to the Skull and his techno lackey, Machinesmith, for the chance to be reborn. Cap refutes this but has no evidence. Bill doesn't give him the chance to clear his name, stripping him of his citizenship and exiling him to the U.K. if that wasn't bad enough, they take away his costume and shield too. politicians. they really know where to hurt you.
could be worse ... he could have been sent to the Sudan
of course, Sharon's not gonna take that sitting down, is she? she still has feelings for Cap, even though sarcasm dribbles from her lips every time she opens them (not those lips, idiot!). so she follows him around like a smitten schoolgirl, all the while imagining that its his fault that she's following him around. girls!!!
she even gives him a gift: replacement duds and an energy shield - a concept they would take further in a future Captain America relaunch after the then-being-planned (and stupid) Heroes Reborn. obviously, Steve Rogers is still the über-man who can kick ass, probably even if he wore a loincloth (check out 1602).
setting a course for Moldavia, Cap and Sharon get ambushed by Machinesmith's thugs, and they have to steal a jet from a nearby US Air Force base to bait the Moldavians to shoot them down with the Argus Cannon. see, Cap's not above breaking the law. that's why he went against the Registration Act.
always the man with a plan. they get shot down, they survive, he finds the Argus Cannon, and disables it. all in a day's work.
the only thing he can't foolproof-plan against, is this cliche ...
which of course, always leads to this ...
you naughty, naughty Steve Rogers, you. that's why everyone loves you.
of course, while they're figuring out if their foreplay is gonna lead anywhere, they get captured.
Machinesmith, a brilliant robotics specialist who can transfer his mind into other robot duplicates, follows standard supervillain protocol and explains to everyone the WWWWWH. say what you want about the jerk; he makes good copy.
Cap is horrified that Machinesmith knows he still wets the bed
aha! so Steve Rogers wasn't a traitor! everyone knew it except Bill Clinton. dammit. he should really stop meeting with cigar-smoking White House interns.
Machinesmith leaves our heroes with two problems: (1) he takes control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier (well, at least the ones with bosses in it), and attempts to crash it on Mt. Hood; and (2) he actually informs them that he is going to assassinate the Prez (i betcha Monica was his favorite niece!).
isn't Cap the man with the plan? easily breaking free, he leaves Sharon in charge of getting the helicarrier back on track while he finds a way out of Machinesmith's HQ. now, we're supposed to believe that Sharon can hack and crack with the best of them, simply by pounding on the keyboard.
you know what they say about monkeys and Shakespeare ...
meanwhile, the now scruffy-looking Cap, distracted by the possibility of the leader of free world being whacked, doesn't notice how ridiculous he looks - ripped S&M gear and on his hands and knees. call his publicist, dammit!
no, he doesn't. he has you where he wants you.
how to get to the U.S. quickly? why, just go to Moldavia's next door neighbor, Latveria, and borrow Dr. Doom's personal supersonic plane. you know, Victor Von Doom, just one of the more powerful Marvel supervillains, who tried to subjugate the world time and time again. does the Fantastic Four know about this? tsk, tsk, Cap ... conniving with another bad guy. this is gonna down. on. your. permanent. record.
through all this, Machinesmith is kind enough to wait for Cap (the Moldavian delegation appears at Camp David for negotiations) to show up. even if it took him several hours to run to Latveria, chat with Doom, and actually fly back to the US. good thing Camp David is on the East Coast.
Cap was right about one thing: Machinesmith wasn't simply gunning for Bill. he wanted the codes to the much-ballyhooed football, and start WWIII. in being the guinea pig for Machinesmith's mind-jumping/reading abilities, the President realizes the truth.
but wait! hold your horses! break out the champagne! play his entrance music! because Captain America is here!!!
(Cap's fake shield and uniform is brought to you by Latveria Party Costumes, Inc.)
"heeeeeere i come to save the daaaaaaay!"
Machinesmith, seeing the tide turning, jumps into the football/laptop. Cap realizes this, and throws the thing into a conveniently-existing gas tank near burning wrecks. that'll teach him. technology. pfah!
"Rogers, wait! let me offload my porn first! waaiiit!"
one thing though; the whole experience made Bill proud of himself, being side by side with Captain America in action. although he didn't do much. kinda like playing with Michael Jordan, contributing 4 measly points, and declaring thereafter that "i remember the night Michael and i combined for 60. that was the greatest night of my life!"
all's well that ends well. Cap regains his status, his citizenship, and of course, his uniform and shield. hey Cap, what about Sharon? "oh shit, i forgot all about her, stranded in Moldovia. oh well, she's a big girl. she better give me a call when she gets back Stateside. that chick is hot!i'll clear my appointments for her. promise!"
ok, i know this storyline came out in 1996, but if we nudge it a year or two, we might have had this scene.
there goes Mr. Rogers' neighborhood.
you the man, Steve. godspeed.
issues read: Captain America vol.1 #450-453